• Author: Adele Grunberg
  • Date Posted: Jul 5, 2003
  • Address: Lusaka, Zambia

My daughter and I flew to Lusaka one summer, to begin a walking safari in Zambia and southern Tanzania. We arrived late at night. Although Lusaka is Zambia’s capitol, the airport was not much to speak of. There were no hotels or amenities. Ours was the only plane to arrive at that hour.

We collected our bags and went outside to find our pre-arranged transport to the hotel where we were scheduled to stay for the few hours left that night. As is customary, there were a number of drivers holding signs to alert their parties of their rides. We expected to see someone holding a sign with our names but we did not. After awhile, all the passengers and drivers were gone. This was disturbing, to say the least.

I went to a bank to change money. The man there was closing and wouldn’t make the transaction. I went to a travel agency where the agent was just leaving. I asked to use her phone. She refused. What was I to do? I felt the edges of panic begin to creep in.

We went outside once more. There was a lone man standing there with a sign listing the names of people who apparently hadn’t arrived. I went up to him and asked if he could take us to our hotel since he was a driver without passengers and we were passengers without a driver. This was against my better judgment but what could I do?

The man took us to a bus with no identifying information written on its side. Was this really a vehicle meant to transport tourists? I admit it, I knew this was foolish, a very poor model for my fifteen year old. We got in. The driver told us he would have to stop and change to a smaller car. Oh my God!

The night was very dark. There were no street lights. We were in the middle of nowhere once we left the airport. After about an hour, we drove into what I can only describe as a junkyard with several menacing-looking guard dogs straining at the chains around their necks, barking madly. I thought of the Jim Croce song “Bad, bad Leroy Brown.” I also thought that if this came to no good, no one would ever know what happened to us.

We switched into a compact car and set out again. More time elapsed. My fear increased. We arrived at our hotel at about 2:00 in the morning. A driver was to come get us just a few hours later at 6:00 am to take us to our next destination. And he did. It was the very same one. There had been a mistake. He had been misinformed about the identity of the passengers he was supposed to pick up. It was us all along!

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